Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Great Dialog

Hello everyone! I’m Stina Leicht, and welcome to my very first blog post at Supernatural Underground. I’d like to thank Helen for inviting me. It’s an honor. Hopefully, she won’t live to regret extending that invitation. :)

In case you missed Helen’s lovely introduction, I’ve a new novel, Cold Iron, published by Simon and Schuster’s Saga Press. It’s an Epic Flintlock Fantasy that uses elements from American history. Why did I decide to write about that? Because I like Epic Fantasy, and I also like military fiction. I enjoy quite a few genres that tend to be male-dominated. Sadly, most of the time when I read them I feel unwelcome at best, and at worst, it feels like I’ve immersed myself in openly hostile waters. I’ve long suspected I wasn’t the only one. Therefore, I decided to do something about it. If you’d like to read more, check out this review on Barnes and Noble’s site.

Today, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite things—great dialog.

I’ve a confession to make. I’m hooked on old black and white films. I like to think of the ‘40s and early ‘50s as the golden age of dialog. Old comedies are my favorite, but I adore pirate movies, noir, and action films too. It started with the movie, Harvey, which I happened to catch one Saturday afternoon and continued with Arsenic and Old Lace, and Adam’s Rib. Years (and years) later, I discovered Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and the novels of Terry Pratchett. I like thoughtful stories with funny people in them. They make the deep, dark stuff so much more meaningful and human. Mind you, not every character should have a sense of humor. That gets old fast. Dialog should have texture. Some characters should be more serious. Others should speak in clipped tones. That’s more like real life, after all. Everyone has their way of speaking, and characters should too. Ultimately, dialog should say a great deal about the character, the world they’re from, the relationship they have with those with whom they’re speaking as well as the plot.

I’ll start with dialog as world-building. Everyone is familiar with the concept. We all know about accents, but geography and culture have a deeper, more subtle affect on speech. I learned that when I wrote Of Blood and Honey which is set in Northern Ireland. Unlike in American films, in reality an Irish accent isn’t the same all across the country even though its a small island. In fact, in the Irish language there are four distinct dialects. (There are others, but they aren’t officially recognized by the government.) And that’s when the Irish speak Irish. When they speak English, it’s possible for them to tell where someone is from within a few miles. It’s possible to tell a great deal about someone based on how they pronounce the letter “H.” It’s that nuanced. I’ll give you an American example. In Texas, an East Texas accent isn’t the same as a Central Texas accent. People who’ve spent all their lives in East Texas tend to, well… mumble. (And if you want a good example of East Texas dialog, read Joe R. Lansdale.) Central Texas accents are clearer and faster. People from other parts of Texas speak slower and more drawn out. It’s possible to convey these differences without writing in dialect. Listen closely. Ask any poet, language has rhythm. So do accents.

Once I get something down, I read it out loud. I ask myself if the words sound like something someone would actually say. If it doesn’t roll smoothly off the tongue, I fix it. Then I think about the environment the character came from. Are they upper class or lower class? How well educated are they? In addition, the analogies and slang they use should illustrate something about their background. The word choices can hint about about their age too. I once had a discussion with a new writer about whether a teenager would use the word “bosom.” Here’s a hint: they wouldn’t—that is, unless they’ve spent their entire lives around older southern (American) women and were home schooled.

I also like to consider who my characters are speaking to. Are they with someone they respect or love or hate? Do they need to be charming? Do they do anything or say anything different when they lie? And that leads me to how characters handle stress. In Of Blood and Honey, Liam runs his hand through his hair when he’s nervous. In Cold Iron, Nels deals with stress by whistling past the graveyard as it were. The more serious and dangerous the situation, the more he’ll cut up with his friend Viktor. When things get especially intense—particularly when he’s in a helpless position Nels’s speech becomes more formal because court speech is often laced with powerful command magic. Suvi, on the other hand, doesn’t do any of that at all. Her position in authority has never suddenly changed for the worse. She has more control over her emotions than Nels does. She’s also spent more time having to cover her intent. She’s the better liar. In the next novel in the series, one of the characters (Blackthorne) spends a great deal of time as sort of an undercover agent. Whenever he’s extremely angry or emotional he tends to slip into his actual voice. It’s like he forgets the role he’s playing for a moment.

You get the idea. Dialog is more than one character talking to another one. Dialog has a big job and a complicated one.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Introducing Stina Leicht: A Very Warm Welcome To The Supernatural Underground, Stina!

Welcome, Stina Leicht
I am thrilled to welcome Stina Leicht* as a new member of our fabulous Supernatural Underground community today.

Stina will be posting with us on the 26th of every month – so do bookmark that date right now, especially since I heard a whisper she may be doing an inaugural giveaway!

Right now, however, I am honored to have the opportunity to introduce her to you all today so without further ado...

Stina Leicht is one of the exciting new names of contemporary Fantasy, with her debut novel, Of Blood And Honey (The Fey And The Fallen series), being published in 2011 and receiving widespread acclaim from the Fantasy community. Stina is also a two-time Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer and a Crawford Award finalist. 

The first novel in her new Flintlock Epic Fantasy series, Cold Iron, debuted this July with Simon and Schuster’s Saga imprint.

Now here's a little of what what Stina has to add about herself ;-) :

"When she was small she wanted to grow up to be like Vincent Price. Unfortunately, there are no basements in Texas – thus, making it difficult to wall up anyone alive under the house. Alas, she’ll have to resign herself to going quietly mad while wearing a smoking jacket. Too bad Texas is hot, she doesn’t smoke and therefore, doesn’t own a smoking jacket."

So now you know that Stina hails from Texas, among other things! :) To find out more, you can visit her here: 

Stina Leicht

I hope you will join with me and the other Supernatural Underground authors in welcoming community Stina to our ranks and do visit again on the 26th to say "hi" to Stina in person. (And check out that giveaway!)

In the meantime, here a link to a review of Cold Iron, just to whet your interest:

NPR Books: Cold Iron Asks: What If Tolkien had Been American?

*Stina tells me "Leicht" is pronounced "Lite."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New Moon and Books of Bast

The Lion Returns by Michael Parkes
Hi Everyone,

The Leo New Moon is upon us!

Time to celebrate heartfelt feelings, creative expression, individuality, artistry and performance, play, fun, romance and kids!

NOTE: This new moon is in a 'critical degree' meaning you can expect things to 'come to a critical point' over the next few weeks. This can manifest in you dropping a toleration, speaking out when need be, or even having a bit of a hissy-fit to clear the air. You may not velvet your claws, but expect things to move forward more evenly once you express.

The Leo Lunar energy increases courage, healthy aggression (no doormats!) and heightens creative powers. You're more apt to be impetuous and quick to act and right now, that's a good thing.
Think: generous, flamboyant, companionable and independence.

The main way to align with this energy is to mimic the Sun—be bold, commanding, animated and Bast, goddess of all felines, elegant, noble, patient.

Don't just be in the spotlight, BE the spotlight!

Here is a quick 'to do' list with actions to spark energy, enthusiasm and fun.
  • Play
  • Dance
  • Laugh
  • Sleep in
  • Individuate
  • Finger paint
  • Adopt a kitten
  • Get creative
  • Enjoy the drama
  • Go out to a romantic dinner
  • Practice more self-love and nurturing
  • Play music, sing, draw, sketch, write, perform
Book lists with amazing cat characters on Goodreads
Suggestions for what to read next?

Support the feline energy in you by reading Spec Fic books featuring sentient cats.

Have a favorite to share? Let me know and I'll add it to my Goodreads List - Books of Bast - or pop over and vote for it yourself.

Happy New Moon in Leo, everyone!


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.

Her latest release is "Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild

Friday, August 14, 2015

Binge Reading: It's An Epic Thing

I've been on an epic reading binge lately, and when I say "epic", I mean that quite literally. I simply cannot seem to get enough of swordfights and monsters, silver-tongued thieves and charming rogues, magical quests and deadly vendettas! Epic fantasy/adventure has consumed a lot of my reading time this summer, and it's been awesome!

My epic fantasy binge began when I picked up PRINCE OF THORNS (Book #1 in the Broken Empire series) by Mark Lawrence. I devoured it, and promptly moved on to EMPEROR OF THORNS and KING OF THORNS. Lawrence's anti-hero for this trilogy, Jorg Ancrath, is one of the most fascinating characters I've ever encountered - imminently hateable yet impossibly appealing. He's a thieving, charming, murdering rogue, dear readers, lying and cheating his way through a very tricky backdrop of warfare and magic, with a backstory like no other, and a seemingly uncanny knack for survival. Is he good? Is he evil? Does he even know the difference anymore? Oh, I loved this series, and immediately starting looking for more along the same lines.

My search led me to Robin Hobb's "Farseer Trilogy": ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE, ROYAL ASSASSIN, and ASSASSIN'S QUEST.  Here I found another unlikely hero, Fitzchivalry Farseer. Fitz is the bastard son of a prince who, denied his crown through an accident of birth, has inherited his father's psychic abilities, and is therefore put to use as a tool and assassin by the same royal family who otherwise disdains him. It's a twisted tale of danger and intrigue, exploring the true nature of loyalty and honor, with a wonderful first-person hero and some really good side characters.

Then, I was delighted to discover that one of the side characters, known simply as The Fool, had a trilogy of his own, which Robin Hobb dubbed "The Tawny Man" trilogy. Just like the first three books by Hobb, I loved FOOL'S ERRAND, GOLDEN FOOL, and FOOL'S FATE, in large part because they were a continuation of FitzChivalry's Farseer's story.

You'd think I'd have had enough epic fantasy by then, but no..... I went on to read more books by Robin Hobb, picking up her "Soldier's Son" series, FOREST MAGE, SHAMAN'S CROSSING and RENEGADE MAGIC.  Sadly, I didn't find this series nearly as good as the first two, but it was definitely different from anything I'd read before, so I read it through to the end.  Somewhere in the middle of this epic fantasy binge, I also read RISE OF EMPIRE and THEFT OF SWORDS by Michael J. Sullivan, PRINCE OF FOOLS by Mark Lawrence, and THE THIEF, THE KING OF ATTOLIA and THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA by Megan Whalen Turner, and enjoyed them all.
My next fantasy/adventure read will be LUCK IN THE SHADOWS by Lynn Flewelling. It's the first book in her "Nightrunner" series, and it looks like there are five more for me to read when I've finished! Woohoo!!!

Maybe by then I'll be off my epic fantasy binge, but I kind of doubt it. Bring on the swordfights and the dashing ne'er-do-wells who always save the day in the end! Bring on the magic and the questing and the monsters who lurk in the shadows! Show me buried treasures and hidden secrets, mountain aeries and deep, dark caves!

And hey, don't worry about me... I can stop reading epic fantasy adventures anytime I want to.

I just don't want to.

Any recommendations for other epic reads I may have missed?

Terri Garey is a Supernatural Underground author who writes award-winning and critically-acclaimed urban fantasy. Even though she's a big scaredy-cat who can't watch horror movies or visit haunted houses, she loves moonlit graveyards, moss-covered headstones and the idea that life goes on even after it's over. Her latest release is WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD, and you can visit her on the web at, or friend her on Facebook.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How do you decide what book to read next?

If you’re like me, you love to read. In fact, it’s quite possible I spend more time looking for the next book to read than actually reading. Part of that might be because I’m picky reader. I want a book to consume me. I want to fall in love, I want to be enchanted, I want to be transported. (I don’t ask for much, do I?) The writing needs to be beautiful, the characters must be both believable and tormented, and the story must be compelling.

I want a book that I can’t put down. I want to start reading in the afternoon and collapse somewhere around 2 or 3 in the morning, because I can’t force myself to stay awake any longer.

As a result, it isn’t always easy for me to find the next, fantastic book to read. So these are some things I’ve started doing...

Find Like Minds:
About a year ago, I joined a Meet Up group where the members first read a book, then we all go see the movie version of that book together. After viewing the film, we eat lunch and chat about the two versions of the “same” story. I’d never gotten together with a group of people like this before and it really opened my horizons. Since then, I’ve started checking out books that have been made into movies (and TV shows). Here’s a list of amazing books that I discovered along the way: Gone Girl, Child 44, Z for Zacharia, Wayward Pines, Outlander, Cold Mountain, Into the Heart of the Sea, The Strain, The Road, and The Vampire Diaries.

Follow Your Heart:
I already have a list of authors that I adore, so I started following them online (mainly on Twitter) to find out when/if they had a new book coming out soon. I found this list of books, all written by my favorite authors, that way: Doll Bones, The Darkest Part of the Forest, The Raven Boys, The Young Elites, 17 & Gone, Six of Crows, and Ismeni.

Ask For Help:
This can be done face-to-face, like when chatting with a like-minded friend or with a local librarian or bookstore employee, or even with a friend online. The results can be off-the-chart amazing, because you might find yourself reading something you never would have considered otherwise. Books that fall in this category for me are: The Road, Bone Gap, and Ironskin.

Random Chance:
This one can be the most fun, because it feels like a treasure hunt. You might stumble upon a book review on Goodreads or a blog; you might notice a book acquired by an editor/agent you admire; or you could type in a search (like I did below) looking for a particular book, only to discover a long list of books worth checking out. From the list below, I ended up buying/reading The Girl Who Loved Tom Gorden, but I plan to read more from that random list too.

How about you? Do you have any special techniques for finding the next book you want to read? And what was the last book you read that totally and completely consumed you?

Merrie Destefano reads more often than she writes. You can follow her online on Twitter and Facebook and you can view her website here.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Editing- The Level that Dante Forgot.

Last month for the Year of Living Authentically as a writer, I typed about what the process of writing was like for us hermitting types. Well, once you finish that first draft, the one that has helped you see the world and yourself a bit clearer, then you have to make it fit for human consumption.

Editing is hell and where I always realize that I am a pretty decent story teller. It is where I curse all my English teachers for not cementing all the comma rules in my brain, and where I want to hug all of them for nurturing the little creative I was as a kid.

My editing is usually a four-tiered process (I have a process now- the first time was just chaos and it shows). Once I have a draft, I walk through at least two rounds of revision. Revision is sort of when the draft is in flux, text is still moveable and malleable. The first round is focused on story structure, making sure I have strong subplots, and all my characters are where they need to be, physically and emotionally. The second round of revision, I look at adding emotions, reactions, and sensory tidbits to fill up the world. I make sure what I have in there still makes sense. I usually do my wordsmithing on these first two read throughs and this draft goes to my beta readers.

Revisions is fun. Its fluid and finding parts that were awesome, mining out themes and subplots that were unconsciously in there already and pulling them to the surface. It is like the photoshopped pic to the left. It is still the same story, but so much clearer and with more punch.

But then comes the un-fun part. The real work. The little edits that I have the hardest time seeing. It has nothing to do with the story, but more to do with the ease of the read. Capitalization of proper nouns that I didn't even know were proper nouns. Making sure that I'm using the correct work, versus the word that I grew up using. Getting all those commas in the right place because I swear they move around on their own. And the three times over spellcheck. I love me some F7.

By this point in the process, I'm starting to think no one is going to read this and I should just stop now and take up underwater basket weaving, because all the zeal I had from revisions is gone and I'm finding so many little instances of fat-fingering, that I'm convinced I should not be allowed near a computer.

When I get comments back from my beta readers, then I take one last very slow look through the manuscript. Checking the beta's comments for emotional punches as well as reading for ease. Making sure everything is smooth and polished and easy to read. I get a little more confidence off this read. The final product, or at least the most final product that I can be comfortable with other people reading.

And then I send it off where someone else will go through the entire process again with a hatchet. It is the fun part about sending your little brain children off into the world.

Hope you enjoyed this little sneak peek into my world right now as I'm just about to send my passion project off, so I'm living in Dante's little unsung level of hell known as edits and then submission!

Until next time, LIVE AUTHENTICALLY!


Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther
(and hopefully something else soon!)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Super Supernatural Underground Feature: The US Cover For Daughter of Blood, The Wall Of Night Book Three

Early in July I featured the UK cover for Daughter Of Blood, The Wall Of Night Book Three.

Today I'm delighted to be able to share the brand-new US cover from Harper Voyager a Supernatural Underground super feature!

What better way to start August, I reckon. :)

This cover heralds the re-release of The Wall of Night series in the US, so there'll be matching covers for The Heir of Night & The Gathering of the Lost as well. Watch this space for their reveal very soon!

Also, when the UK cover was revealed, a reader asked a question about whether the ebook would be released concurrently with the mass market paperback in the US. I have checked with Harper Voyager and the answer is a resounding yes, it definitely will be.

To find out more, check out their site for:

 Daughter Of Blood

And otherwise, roll on January 2016, I say!