Saturday, July 15, 2017

Read your Way to Happiness

Fairytale Moods

You probably won't be surprised to hear that HAPPINESS is a core human value. What you may not realize is how much reading fiction can foster this core value, improving health, well being, creativity and even economic success. 

Positive Psychology - the study of what makes people happy - has made many advances in the last decade. Their research has revealed the habits happy people engage in. The list includes:

1. Relationship - happy people feel connected, part of a tribe or clan with friends and loved ones to share their lives with.

2. Kindness - we all have something in us called the “moral molecule” which is linked to love and pain relief. This molecule releases high levels of oxytocin (a happy brain messenger) when we care for or think about those we love.

Empathy - "I cry over anime character's problems
more than crying over my own.
3. Positive thinking - being grateful, optimistic, hopeful is another key ingredient to a happy life. 

4. Exercise - Moving the body increases happy brain messengers, making us feel more optimistic, empowered and strong. 

5. Culture - People who go out to art shows, performances, music and films and even sporting events are more likely to be happy.

6. Pets - Having cats, dogs, horses, bunnies or snakes, whichever animal captures your heart, is shown to reduce anxiety, improve the health and put a smile on your face. This could fall under the categories of relationship, kindness and exercise as well.

7. Honoring Strengths and Virtues - Studies show that happy people have discovered their unique strengths and virtues and use them for a purpose that is greater than their own personal needs.

8. Coping with Stress. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol put you in a constant state of 'fight or flight' - great for emergencies; hard on overall peace and relaxation.

Arden Cho plays Kira, a Kitsune in Teen Wolf (MTV)

Interestingly, reading fiction can support and amplify many of these happiness fostering habitsCompare the list below to the key habits of happy people:

1. Relationships - Reading improves our RW (real world) relationships through simulation as we explores ideas of change, emotions and the unknown. According to studies conducted by social and media psychologists, the companionship experienced with fictional characters can be very real. We care about them, love them, and connect when we fall into the story.

2. Empathy and compassion. Multiple studies have shown that imagining stories helps activate the regions of your brain responsible for compassion and seeing the world from a new perspective.

3. Reading fiction reduces stress by allowing us to disengage from our 24/7 cognitive attention. In other words, it allows us to rest. Research at the University of Sussex shows that reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, better than other methods like listening to music or taking a walk.

4. Getting enough sleep - A reading routine can help us sleep better. Tim Ferriss, sleep optimizer, suggests we read fiction before bed to engage the imagination and present-state attention (unlike non-fiction which encourages projection into the future and preoccupation/planning. 

5. Memory - Reading boosts memory, forestalling decline in later life. 

6. Inclusivity and perspective. Reading literally opens our minds, enhancing the ability to understand the perspective of unfamiliar or marginalized groups. 

7. Creativity - Research findings suggest that reading fictional literature leads to better mental processing generally, including those of creativity.

8. Overall Happiness - Surveys show that reading fiction makes people happy, plain and simple! Falling into a story is a joy unto itself.

What about you? Can you relate to these benefits of reading? Whether it's a traditional book, iPad, tablet or phone, we'd love to hear what books light you up the most.

Comments welcome, and happy reading!

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 at, the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.  Or on where she teaches law of attraction and astrology.

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook. Check out her daily Astro-LOA Flash horoscopes on Facebook.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

5 Favorite Fantasy-Genre Romances

Early last month, my fellow Supernatural underground author, Amanda Arista, wrote here: "I know that this is supposed to be an all things fiction blog, but I find myself ruminating on Romance recently."

And what a wonderful post it was, too. If you haven't read it out already then do check it out now, right here: "Love is messy, love is kind...Wait, That's Not How It Goes." 

Since reading Amanda's great post I have been reflecting on the place of romance in Fantasy fiction. The upshot of my reflections are that—just as romance and love are one of the drivers that make human beings tick and the world go around—so, too, Fantasy would be much the poorer without romance in its storytelling.

Fortunately, the genre is characterized by some great Fantasy romances—and today I am sharing five that have rocked my world.

Eowyn & Faramir
One of the most unexpected, but also delightful because of that unexpectedness, was the romance of Eowyn and Faramir at the conclusion of JRR Tolkien's  The Lord of the Rings. Faramir (as he appears in the books, rather than the movies so much) was already one of my favorite characters. And of course I adored Eowyn who rode to the battle of the Pelennor Fields disguised as a man and slew the evil and powerful Witch King (aka the Lord of the Nazgul.) So when Eowyn and Faramir fell in love, I was a happy reader...

Karou and Akiva in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. "Once upon a time an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well." This is such a great setup for the love story of Karou and Akiva, which is another one of my favorites of recent years, not least because the two protagonists have not only to bridge the divisions of a bitter and vicious war between their peoples, but also the conflicts within their own societies—and ultimately death itself. If you love romance in your Fantasy and haven't read this book yet, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Dev and Cara from Courtney Schafer's Shattered Sigil series (which starts with The Whitefire Crossing) are both scouts guiding caravans through difficult and dangerous mountain terrain. What I love about their relationship is that it is clearly one between equals and also that it evolves through the difficult and dangerous crossing referenced in the title of the first book: a gradual dawning of romance rather than 'love at first sight' but no less real or rewarding for all of that.

Jill and Rhodry in Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell, the daughter of a Silver Dagger and a prince of the Celtic kingdom of Deverry, are a love-at-first-sight couple as well as the proverbial star-crossed lovers. What sets the story apart is the magic of the characters (both are headstrong and more than a little impetuous) but also the magic of the connection between them. A fine romance, indeed.

Katsa and Po in Kristin Cashore's Graceling. Katsa and Po are another of fantasy's great relationships between equals. Their romance is also tempestuous and set about by darkness and danger—but one of the things I really like is that they not only fight side by side, as well as against each other sometimes, but like Dev and Cara they know how to have fun together, too. And there's nothing quite like moments of shared laughter to make romance, as well as the world, spin along.

So there you are, five great romances of Fantasy fiction that have spun my wheels and rocked my reading world. But how about you? I bet you have a few favorites, too. If you'd like, share with me and fellow Supernatural Underground readers through the comments. :-)

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 her most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we