Monday, May 30, 2016

Words is your bizness: writing the blurb

This will be a rather short post, but I did want to talk about writing blurbs. I know a lot of authors tend to think that once they've gotten past the initial query letter, they'll never have to face the horror of condensing their novel into two paragraphs again.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

With both the blurb and the query, you're trying to sell your novel, which is long and deep and complicated, in just a few words, and I know that is hard. One thing I did that helped me immensely was browse in a bookstore. I wandered the fiction section and jotted down taglines and blurbs that caught my attention. Then I went home and analyzed them.

A good blurb is about communicating the essence of your story to the reader, not the details.

Let's look at mine. This was an incredibly difficult blurb to write, because we were combining three novellas into three paragraphs. Here are a few things I learned:

Know your audience. If I am writing historical fantasy with nephilim, I want to target people who love history and magic. So I will design my blurb around the dates, the conflicts, and the how the magic works.

Nail it with a sentence. The biggest argument that I hear from authors is that their story is too complicated. You're a writer. Words is your bizness. Use them well.

Know what appeals to your fans and zoom the lens of your words on the aspects of your story that will appeal most strongly to your reader.

My Los Nefilim blurb encompasses three novellas with one sentence:

T. Frohock's three novellas--In Midnight's Silence, Without Light or Guide, and The Second Death--bring to life the world of Los Nefilim, Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons.

What have I told you in that sentence? The names of the previous novellas, what Los Nefilim are (Spanish Nephilim), how they use their magic (through music and light), and finally the nature of the big picture conflict (the supernatural war between angels and daimons).

Narrow the conflict to the protagonist. The next sentence is:

In 1931, Los Nefilim's existence is shaken by the preternatural forces commanding them ... and a half-breed caught in-between.

Here I center the reader in the time period (1931), because this is historical fantasy. I tell the reader all is not well in the world of Los Nefilim (their existence is shaken), and then I zoom the lens one phrase closer to my protagonist and his place within the conflict (a half-breed caught in-between). The word "caught" indicates the protagonist isn't a willing participant in this war.

Who is the protagonist and what makes them special? Now that I've given the reader the set-up for the world, I tell them about my protagonist:

Diago Alvarez, a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent, is pulled into the ranks of Los Nefilim in order to protect his newly found son.

Diago is not human, nor is he normal by the nephilim's standards (a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent). He is not in Los Nefilim entirely by choice (is pulled into the ranks), but he has a reason to be there (in order to protect his newly found son).

What is the protagonist's conflict? This comes in the last two sentences.

As an angelic war brews in the numinous realms, and Spain marches closer to civil war, the destiny of two worlds hangs on Diago's actions. Yet it is the combined fates of his lover, Miquel, and his young son, Rafael, that weigh most heavily on his soul.

Here I have reintroduced the angelic war and tied it into the Spanish Civil War while alluding to Diago's role in the course of events. I also introduce the fact that Diago is gay (his lover, Miquel) and that the fates of Miquel and Rafael are Diago's primary concern, which adds a very relatable human element to the story.

Sum it all up. The last line sums up the crux of the story:

Lyrical and magical, Los Nefilim explores whether moving toward the light is necessarily the right move, and what it means to live among the shadows.

This sentence refers to Diago questioning his decision to join Los Nefilim throughout the novellas. I also like it because it reveals the deeper meaning behind the story: Diago used to live as a mortal, eschewing his magic and trying to be "normal." With his newly found son, he forsakes that existence to join Los Nefilim, although by moving toward Los Nefilim (the angels and the light), Diago is also forced to live less openly. Now he is must move through the shadows of Los Nefilim's various lies in order to hide his true nature from the mortals.

Of course the reader won't understand that paradox until they have read the story, but that is part of the hook.

A blurb is merely a marketing a tool, but it's a very important one. Know your story, but also know your audience. Above all else, pay very close attention to your word choices so you can make your blurb pack a punch.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Shout-out for "The Wall Of Night" FB Group!

The Wall of Night now has its own FaceBook Group! w00t! It's a hangout for anyone who likes getting together with like-minded fellow readers to discuss books and worldbuilding, storyline and characters -- in this case 'mostly' from The Wall of Night series.

The mighty Rosie C. :)
I'd like to say it was all my idea, but no, that honor goes to  reader, Rosie Cooper, who both had the idea and got things up and running! Thanks, Rosie. :)

In this case the purpose of the Group is to discuss The Heir of Night, The Gathering of the Lost, & Daughter of Blood with others who've enjoyed The Wall of Night series or may be thinking about reading and want to find out more.

It's all about the good book discussion vibe, the friendly, and the having fun -- so if you think this sounds like you, head on over to:


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) was published on January 26, 2016. 

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we

Monday, May 16, 2016

Thoughts on Book Trailers

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 11.21.46 AM
The Blood in the beginning - An Ava Sykes Novel #booktrailer

 Hi Everyone,

What's your take on book trailers?

I'm still unsure ...

Book trailers have been around since 2006, and present an interesting paradox: They use audio/visual media to promote the textual. The question is, can it work.

Book trailers evolve for multiple reasons, not the least because information is now transmitted in speedy, cinematic and downloadable bites. It's almost like going back to the picture book mentality, that stage of reading where we relied on the visual to trigger understanding of the textual. Only this is so much more controversial.

puts it like this:
A trailer, in a way, violates a book’s very construction.
But does it?

For readers who don't have time to "spend leisurely afternoons in bookstores or reading extensive book reviews,' as Najafi puts it, a two minute book trailer can give them a feel for the author and their newest release. Maybe. Running on low budgets and using cheap stock footage and sound tracks can create a result that could do the novel a disservice. Going first class and spending thousands on the clip can result in a trailer that gives away too much story or worse, amps the reader for something the book is not going to deliver. Cathy Yardley's crit on book trailers include:
  • They don't get a lot of views
  • Low return on investment
  • They can't up your SEO
Hmmm. Not too inspiring, but there are some trailers that really rock it. I don't know if they sell books, but as a medium on their own, they are rich in value. And it's value that will encourage people to view and share. Catherine Ryan Howard says:
People aren’t using social media because they love being sold stuff. They’re using it ... to find entertainment, information and connection.
If you want your book trailer to promo your book, or bring attention to a new series/author, it might pay to keep this in mind. Is it entertaining? Informative? Creating connections?

Book trailers that work for me:

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 9.15.34 AM
The Blood in the Beginning - An Ava Sykes Novel
I am fortunate to have Shawn Wilder at MonkeyMe Films as my beautiful Pisces sister AND a fan of Ava Sykes. She's read multiple early copies and knows the story inside out. When it came time to play with trailer ideas, she had them, buy the truck load.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 1.36.50 PM
The Miriam Black Novels by Chuck Wendig
 The combination of voice and text in the Miriam Black trailer is utterly engaging, and dark, but more like an audio book than a trailer, perhaps?

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 1.41.32 PM
Harry Potter Book Trailer
With Harry Potter trailers, Scholatic's budget probably wouldn't have been an issue. And there were the films to pull from. It has a Disney feel. Probably why my inner child likes it so much.

There are many great book trailers out there, but in an article that pulls no punches: Aliza Weinberger explains why book trailers often make readers cringe:
Because most are terrible.

I'm not going to show any examples of trailers in that category, mainly because I have so much respect for authors who are out there writing books and promoting them in every way they can. And, trailers, for better or worse, are art forms. What sparks me might get the brush from another, and vise versa. So . . . do no harm. :)

I won't encourage a rotten tomato contest here, but if you think we can LEARN something from one that doesn't work (for you) please feel free to link to it in the comments. I also want to see what you do love, and of course, what you think of Ava Sykes.

So what's it to be? Book trailer or non?

Share your thoughts. There are emerging writers and published authors out there that want to hear them!


Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing urban fantasy, paranormal romance, 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 and

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day -- & Three Fabulous Moms of SF-Fantasy

Today being Mother's Day, I thought I'd reprise my take on Three Fabulous Moms of Fantasy SciFi -- because Moms are not only awesome, but awesome Moms are everywhere, right? And should be celebrated. Right on; high five!

By the way, I'd love you to tell me your favorite fictional Moms in the comments. Fantasy-SF Moms would be fan-tastic, but tis not required since we *heart* all fiction and great fictional characters, as well as Moms, here on Supernatural Underground.

OK, here's three I feel are worth a mention today:

First up is Cherie Priest’s Briar Wilkes in the steampunk novel,  Boneshaker. Briar risks all to enter—via dirigible, of course!—the zombie-infested precinct of alternate 19th century Seattle, all to rescue her teenage son, Zeke, who has foolishly ventured there in a quest to find his missing father. Briar is a feisty steampunk heroine, but most importantly, the raison d’etre behind her adventure is first and foremost about being a Mom.

My second fabulous Mom is also a classic SFF character: Jessica from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Her son, Paul, may be the 'official' main character but Jessica gets almost as much air time. 

Francesca Annis as Jessica
What a character she is: strong, resourceful, smart—and a Mom who is determined that her son’s going to survive against extreme odds, even if this means that she has to deny thousands of years maneuvering by of the political/magical Order (Bene Gesserit) to which she belongs. I still recall how much I loved Jessica as a teen reader—her vulnerability and strength, her toughness and love for her son. A Mom and a mover-and-shaker at the same time: way to go, Jessica! 

I've chosen the wizard, Jenny Waynest, in Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane as my third contender. The thing about Jenny is that she’s struggling with what it means to be a wizard and yet also be a Mom and a partner to her kids’ father, John Aversin. In that sense she’s “everywoman”, wanting to love her kids and be a good Mom, yet still realise herself at the same time.

Have a happy Supernatural Underground Mother's Day everyone!

* This is post is adapted from an earlier Supernatural Underground feature in 2011


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) was published on January 26, 2016. 

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Most Interesting Stories...

Voices have whispered to me for most of my life. The voices tell the most fantastic tales. They talk about magic, love, death, car chases, whizzing bullets, fires, laughter, good jokes, and some really bad jokes. These voices have whispered about distant places like Egypt, Peru, and Budapest. They tell me about places that I've never been, and a few places that I've gotten the chance to visit.

In all the decades that I've listened to the voices, I've held to one rule. Trust them and they won't steer me wrong. And so far, they haven't.

I started writing stories when I was twelve. In the long years since those first tales, I've written fantasy, high school romance, historical romance, horror, and fairy tales. When my first book, Nightwalker, was published, I was writing urban fantasy. Even then, I knew I'd never just write about vampires, even though I love them a great deal.

So after I finished with my vampires and warlocks, I wandered into a new genre with Rinda Elliott. Near the end of last year, we launched a brand new series called the Unbreakable Bonds Series. The first book, Shiver, was released in October 2015. It's a male/male contemporary romantic suspense following the adventures of four close friends in Cincinnati.

Here is a description of Shiver:

Lucas Vallois is always in control. He’s building an empire in the glittering city of Cincinnati and created his own family from his three close friends. The self-made millionaire has everything he wants within his tight grasp. But his world starts to crumble after he’s jumped by a trio of thugs late one night after leaving a club. The warning is clear—give up his new property venture or end up dead.
Caving to the demands of his friends, Lucas accepts the help of bodyguard, Andrei Hadeon, as he hunts for the source of this new threat. But as Lucas gets closer to uncovering the danger, he realizes the sexy Romanian bodyguard poses an even bigger risk to his carefully constructed world. Trapped by a need he never expected, Lucas must find a way to deny the shiver of longing he cannot control.
His brother. His warrior. His heart. Four friends. Unbreakable bonds.
At the end of April, the second book in the series, Shatter, was released. This book follows the exploits of Lucas's close friend, Snow:

Maverick trauma surgeon Ashton “Snow” Frost keeps the world at a distance, relying only on his three closest friends to keep him connected. But when a ghost from their past returns to Cincinnati, Snow stands to lose everyone he loves. Framed for murder and reeling from attacks on his friends, Snow is pushed to his breaking point.
Jude Torres won’t let the doc shatter. The paramedic has been attracted to the doctor since he first laid eyes on him at the hospital, even if the arrogant, solitary man doesn’t fit into any of his plans. One hot, reckless kiss shows that Snow isn’t who he appears to be. And one night together will never be enough. Jude will fight for the doc.
Fight to keep him whole. Fight to keep him safe. Fight to simply keep him.
Rinda and I are hard at work on the third book, Torch, which will be out later in 2016. Working on the Unbreakable Bonds series has been a fabulous adventure, but the vampires have started whispering to me again. The good news is that I will be releasing a spin-off from the Dark Days series a little later this summer called Stefan.

Trust the voices. They'll lead you to the most interesting places and introduce you to the most interesting people.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Writing Conferences: The Story of Mamanda

Year of the Thumbs Up:

Hey, long time no type. April was just a little CRAZY. It was an all thumbs on deck sort of month with teaching and working and writing and mom-ing and breathing. So no thumbs were given.

But this month: Let's give a big thumbs up for Writer's Conferences!! The season of conferences and travel is fast approaching for writers and readers. So if you are on the fence, here's a little story:

There was once a girl, lets call her Mamanda, who read a short story in class and the popular girls made fun of her. She never read anything out loud ever again until she entered a writing program and she had to. It was the most nerve wracking day of her adult life.

As her hands shook, she waited for some one to tell her that she was the worst thing to put ink on a page.

But they didn't, because they too were putting their thoughts to paper and knew the courage it took to face the fear of not only public speaking (Introverts Unite Separately!) but also sharing a deeply personal part of your creative self.

Mamanda had found her tribe who accepted her, shared a common language and would not think she was insane when she kept talking about Supreme Ordeals and the dreaded Act IIb. Now, Mamanda writes her happy little stories of death and destruction and shares them with the world (or will, soon, my friends, soon).

This is the power of Writer's Conferences. This past weekend I was invited to speak at the DFW Writer's Convention and it reminded how awesome it is to be surrounded by people who share your passion for story telling. I've been to Romantic Times and Romance Writers of America, but this year, I wanted to do a few smaller events since I'm between contracts.

I met writers in all stages of their journey. I met agents who were really just excited to be there and talk to others about story and arcs and the industry. And I learned! I took a million notes from others just like me who had cracked some part of their story process and wanted to SHARE it with others. that was the major thing. Everyone was just so damn supportive of good pitches and new deals and completing a manuscript. There were THUMPS UP all over the place.

I walked out of that conference with more gusto about writing than I have all year. And completely unable to talk for three days due to human interaction overload, but my brain was a firing!

So this month's Thumbs Up goes to : Writing Conferences, equally exhausting and exhilarating. If you are an aspiring writer or an accomplished one, just give it a chance. You never know -you might sit next to your new tribes-person.

Amanda Arista
Author, Those Who Wander Universe

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Five Magical Kisses From "The Wall of Night" Series

Last month, I maintained that despite The Wall Of Night series being epic fantasy, the story still contains romantic moments — and checked out Five Romantic Moments to prove my point.

In talking romance, nothing is more magical than a kiss, so today, I thought I'd share some of those magical moments: whether light-hearted, star-crossed, or the classic true love's kiss ...

from The Heir of Night (Book One)

"Garan just doesn't like to miss an opportunity to kiss a pretty face," said the guard Lira, who had a darkly pretty face of her own. "And I am much the same!" she added, stepping up to Tarathan and kissing him on the mouth. The herald looked startled for a moment, but then he laughed and kissed her back. She laughed, too ..."


"The ghost of a smile caught at the guard's lips, but he had to bend even closer now to hear her whisper. " ... kiss ... farewell ... "

"I would be honored," he replied softly, "to kiss one so valiant and so true." The ghost smile deepened for a moment as he kissed her, very gently, on the shadow of her cold mouth. Her lips parted as though to speak again, but no more words came."

from The Gathering Of The Lost (Book Two)

"The bloom was of a kind that grew wild along every roadside and was already starting to wilt, but he worked it into the knot of ribbon around his arm—Ghiselaine’s colors, which reminded him to turn and raise his sword to her, where she sat at the Duke’s right hand ... She bowed, smiling, and the crowd cheered—and cheered again when Ilaise leaned forward and blew him a kiss."


"Tarathan lifted her hands to his lips and kissed them, the touch of his lips warm against her skin. And then his arms were around her, drawing her close. She could feel his heart beating: sure and strong, she thought, listening to its rhythm, strong and sure. Beautiful, the moonfire sang, and dangerous ..."


from Daughter Of Blood (Book Three) 

"Just as well Eria isn’t among the elect then, Garan reflected. Otherwise she could not have kissed him the way she had, the day he departed for the River ... Garan, who had been conferring with Asantir, was the last to reach the gate—and at the final moment Eria had come running, swinging herself up by means of his saddlebow and one foot resting on his in the stirrup, to kiss him on the mouth."

Proof positive, I hope, that a story can be epic and still be romantic!

I think the light-hearted and more serious kisses are reasonably clear, but as for which ones may be star-crossed and which true love's kiss, as with last month's romantic moments, the answers lie in the the story ...


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) was published on January 26, 2016. 

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