Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not a Superhero

Image by Igor Morski

I didn’t start out some kind of superhero, bent on protecting New LA. My relationship with this city is love/hate. I’m definitely not her minder. But I do look after my friends. That’s what kick-fired this whole damn story. One night. A new job. And, looking after Cate.

The Blood in the Beginning - An Ava Sykes Novel

. . . by the time I was working on round two of the best mushroom pesto linguine in the universe, Cate, my newly single BFF,  had purged. She even moved from victim mode to outrage, (all directed at the ass hat Joey) and that was a step up on the emotional scale, in my book anyway. I took a third serving and smiled. With a lifestyle like mine, which included martial arts training on my nights off, I loaded up on carbs when I could. Yum!
After doing the dishes – Cate wasn’t one to leave a spoon out of place – I had a quick shower, leaving enough hot water for her. While she dressed in her ‘uniform,’ which consisted of very little other than glitter and coconut shells, I opened the gun safe and slipped my Ruger .9 mm into my calf holster and smoothed down my jeans. I was licensed to carry, and I always did at work, more for the trip there and back, than anything else. New LA wasn’t really a city of angels, not good ones anyway. Cate threw on a light coat and we headed for the bus. I looked up and down the street, frowning. Something prickled my skin. 
            ‘Joey won’t come here, if that’s what you’re thinking. He’s scared of you,’ Cate said.
            'Good. The dirtbag should be afraid.' I was going for reassurance. 
            She changed the subject. 'Any news on Daina?’ 

Speaking of scared. Daina was our mutual acquaintance, the most recent missing coeds in a wave of unexplained murders, at least that’s what the press called them. Not all the bodies had been found.
            Cate sighed. ‘Nothing.’ The bus pulled up as we arrived at the stop. ‘Do you think she’s still alive?’
            I shrugged. ‘Can’t see how, but we can hope.’
Yeah, that’s how the night began. Off to work at Club Poseidon.

Innocent enough . . . but by midnight, not so much. I was in the elevator, on my way up, I thought, ready to take over the door, but that’s not what happened.

… In the elevator, my fingers hovered over the console. There was a dark smudge on the button below UP that hadn’t been there before. Without thinking, I swiped it, bringing my finger to my nose. Blood? As I did, the elevator kicked in. It took me a second to realise it was heading down. What the hell? I hadn’t even pressed the damn thing. I hit the UP button several times, but nothing happened. I was definitely going down.

The lights went from white to deep-green as the elevator descended. A moment later, it stopped. The bell dinged and the doors slid open. Noise hit like a tidal wave. The visuals were a blur, my senses bombarded. I stood, stock-still, as the undeniable smell of blood, laced with fear and aggression rushed up my nose. A gasp forced its way out of my throat and I slammed my hand over the UP button, hard enough to crack the console.
The doors remained open. I flattened myself against the side of the wall, unable to blink, or tear my eyes away. It was a ghoul’s carnival, a page right out of Hieronymus Bosch. Run! The command coursed through my body, but there was nowhere to go. I jabbed the UP button again. Nothing.
The music bounced off the walls. Amid blue lights and flashing strobes, naked bodies danced, gyrating to the rhythmic beats, but that’s where any similarity with upstairs ended. People’s faces were streaked, dark liquid dripping down their chins, and throats. Around the walls, victims hung from chains. People? Mannequins? I saw some move, struggling against the restraint. The far wall was taken up entirely with the floor to ceiling aquarium. It must run right up to the club level, but ... this was different. The unearthly waters teemed with sharks, in a wild frenzy as they fed on chunks of flesh and bone. What were they feeding them? The bodies on the wall? Some of the chained victims looked dead, some not; all dripped blood. It flowed down their limbs into crystal goblets.

My heart pounded, a sledgehammer in
my chest. As the doors slowly closed enough to block most of my view, I thought I would escape unnoticed. Then a man’s head turned, eyes looking straight at mine …

Kim Falconer's latest release is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. Find this novel in a store near you.

You can also learn more about Kim atAvaSykes.com, the 11th House Blog, and onFaceBook 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. All Welcome.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The "Once upon a time" Weapon

Year of the Like: Neuroscience and Anthropology!

 I know, what does science have to do with story telling. Turns out, a whole bunch.

The hubster and I had a discussion about six months ago about why we tell stories. I knew it had to be more than just entertainment. So I read a lot of books and, turns out, it is very important.

Storytelling might have been one of the skills successful tribes used to survive. I know it sounds far fetched, but these ancient societies might have used the brains own need for pattern and meaning as a way to teach lessons like WOLVES EAT PEOPLE and DON'T GO OUT AT NIGHT.

The brain processes so much information in a minute, that it would make your head spin if you actually had to remember everything. So instead, it filters out all the information that is not relevant to the moment or meaningful based on a previously determined pattern.

As I have gone over with my language from the hero's journey and others have discussed with three-act structures and five-beat story parts, there is a pattern to storytelling that we are ALL innately familiar with. When we see something start with a girl faced with a decision, we automatically see the beginning of a story. And our brains are focused on this because for eons, these stories have been teaching us to survive. We listened to our grandmothers tell us scary stories of gluttonous children and disobedient girls with red hoods.

Our ability to pass along information in meaningful ways that stuck with generation after generation is a weapon against a very cruel and predatory world, but also allows the future to adapt faster because they have a baseline knowledge of how the world works and can become better, faster, and stronger because of it.

Even now when the world is more social predators than scary things that go bump in the night, story becomes our way of learning how to adapt and overcome. Our children are stronger for the stories that we tell them.

So after all this research, I am really focused on teaching a survival skill with my story. What lesson or skill can I pass along to my readers that will help them survive. Can I help with empathy or understanding or justice so that they make it through the world with a little less heartache and a little more empathy. 

So Thumbs up to Neuroscience and understanding the survival skills of the human race. I really recommend a little look inside the human brain (and body) every now and then to remind us how awesome humans have the potential to be. 

Amanda Arista

Monday, August 1, 2016

Why hello, August... A brief reflection on kindness, laughter, & cake

This time last month I was eagerly awaiting the release of Kim Falconer's new book The Blood in the Beginning -- and particularly looking forward to my Twitter interview with Kim re the book and her heroine-of-awesome, Ava Sykes.

Together, we had some fun with that and I hope you did, too. If you missed the event, you can still check it out via the Twitter hashtag #thebloodinthebeginning Since we also shared in the big cover reveal for Merrie Destefano's forthcoming book, Lost Girls, that makes July a pretty tough Supernatural Underground act to follow -- so I decided I wouldn't even try. ;-)

Coffee cake
Instead, I thought I'd like to share this fun and cool thought from one of my favourite calendars: Leigh Standley's The World According To Curly Girl (they're great, so do check them out!):

"A great many things can be resolved with kindness (hear, hear!)
even more with laughter (true dat)
but there are some things that just require cake."

Lemon cake
Ah, now you're talking my language...so here are a few of my favorite cake pics to make the point, even if no further emphasis is really required.

You could, dear Supernatural Undergrounders, just enjoy some virtual cake via the images. :)

Or you could, if you feel so inclined, let me know (via the comments) some of the circumstances that you feel "just require cake"...

Date & walnut torte
Chocolate (Intense) cake
And last but never least...

Orange cake.

Mmmmm, delicious...