Unteathered Realms Yuletide Spectacular! #fantasy #scifi #giveaway

Pack your ereader with spectacular reads this holiday season!

Great free books to make your yuletide merry and bright!

Of Blood and Sorrow
by Christine Rains

by M. Pax


Blue House Magic
by Catherine Stine

An Absence of Light
by Meradeth Houston

Wings of Flesh and Bones
by Cathrina Constantine

Hedge Witch (The Cloven Land Trilogy, Book 1)
by Simon Kewin

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Review of Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

When I decided to teach novel craft via Ocean at the End of the Lane to my college writing workshop students I had no idea what I was in for. Sure, there's a plot arc, chapter hooks, rules for magic, and themes: the nature of memory and time, identity, the importance of friendship. Still, Gaiman's newest tome defies definition. It's a mash up of magical realism, psychological horror, fantasy, a coming of age, and dare I say cosmic Jungian theology. Okay, let me back up...

The unnamed narrator returns to his boyhood town for the funeral of an unnamed person (Let me add myth to the mash up list). Distracted by unsettled emotions stirred by seeing his old stomping grounds, the narrator wanders down the lane to neighboring Hempstock Farm. There, he talks to Ginny Hempstock, and inquires about Lettie, her daughter and his childhood friend. He remembers Lettie's claim that her backyard pond was actually a vast ocean. When he sits and looks at the pond, he "remembers it, and in remembering, remembers all."

Lettie, her mom Ginny and the Hempstock granny are no ordinary trio. Old Mrs. Hempstock claims, "I've been around since the moon was made," and these ladies know the magic of "snipping and binding". He recalls taking refuge at their farm after an opal miner renting a room in his parents' house takes his dad's car and kills himself in it. Soon after this, the boy runs to Lettie's when his new babysitter, Ursula Monkton turns out to be a terrifying monster who knows everything about him. Not only that, but she claims to have wormed her way into this world from boring a hole in the boy's foot and traveling up to his heart!

Ursula is a truly frightening thing, and Gaiman has wicked fun in creating her. She is, in turns, a flea, a dirty mess of flapping canvas, a beautiful woman who has transfixed the boy's father, an alien from another time who tells the boy, "I've been inside you and I'm always watching you." Her defense in being creepy is that, "It's your fault. You brought me here. You tore a hole in Forever." Indeed, it's a dangerous thing for the boy to "be a door."

When Lettie and the boy band together to fight Ursula and "send her home" they must deal with supernatural varmints, or as Lettie calls them, Hunger Birds. These ravenous critters not only peck and injure, but they devour the world, part by part.

I won't tell you what happens except to say that the boy is tested in every way. For one, he must remain alone all night in a fairy ring stalked by visions and specters who try to coax him out of the safe zone.  Gaiman's magic is quite creative, and the last section of the book blossoms to a cosmic level. Gaiman's visionary language is brilliant, and his message transcends the bounds of the fantasy genre. Highly recommended.


You Know Nothing, Jon Snow #sci #fantasy #research #facts

How important is it that writers get their facts straight? It’s a question that often bothers me, because so many books I read get simple factual things wrong. Meradeth touched upon the distinction between a theory and a hypothesis last month, which is a good example of what I mean, but there are many others.

Take computers: that’s an area I happen to know about as I’m also a software developer. It’s very obvious to me, however, that many writers do not really know their megabits from their gigahertz or do not really know the distinction between the internet and the web. They try, and they use so many of the correct terms, they just use them in a slightly incorrect way which shows they’re essentially just using technical jargon and hoping for the best. I still laugh at that bit in Independence Day when our heroes manage to upload a computer virus to an alien and utterly unknowable operating system. Similarly, a friend of mine recently stopped watching a certain Sci-Fi series remake because “they got the physics all wrong” and it ruined the enjoyment for him.

I’ve no doubt the same is true for other specialized areas of knowledge. For example, I’m married to a medical doctor, and she often sees significant flaws in books touching upon healthcare. Viruses and bacteria confused, that sort of thing. The chances are, she won’t notice the IT mistakes just as I won’t notice the medical ones. As writers, we all strive to research our characters and our worlds, but it’s inevitable we’ll get things wrong because we can’t be an expert in everything.

My question is, does it matter? A book with technical mistakes may alienate some readers, but maybe most won’t mind. For me, what matters more than strict factual accuracy is story. If the story’s good enough, if the characters are intriguing enough, I’ll forgive a few slipups in the research. If it’s a great book I may not even notice.

Of course, as writers of speculative fiction we maybe have things a bit easier. If we’re inventing our own worlds then readers often won’t know when we get things “wrong”, because we’re not trying to achieve a reliable representation of the real world. Sci-Fi maybe represents more of a challenge, because there are a lot of scientifically knowledgeable readers out there. I think that what’s important, so often, is consistency rather than accuracy. We can invent all manner of miraculous magics and technologies, and readers will accept them, but if we fail to follow our own rules, contradict ourselves, then readers will spot it and may be jarred out of the story.

Gary Gygax, designer of Dungeons and Dragons once said, “a reader will swallow a whale but choke on a minnow.” It's an important lesson.

As a writer, I do all I can to get my facts straight, but I’m honestly more concerned with story, plausibility and consistency. But maybe I'm wrong to take that approach. I should probably do some more research.

What does anyone else think?


#UnRealms November Twitter Chat - Things With Wings

Angels, fairies, and dragons!
So many creatures real and fantasy with wings.

Join the Untethered Realms authors on Twitter all November for an on-going chat about things with wings. We love to talk about real critters that leave us in awe and marvelous fantasy beasts that blow us away.

Please use the hashtag #UnRealms.

You can find us on Twitter at @UnRealms.


Harnessing the Winds by Morena Silver #review #fantasy

Harnessing the Winds (A Tale of The Abandoned #1) by Morena Silver

Captain Artemia Storm's magic has failed her. Without enough to protect her crew, a vicious sea hag curses her and all the women on her ship, The Abandoned. Never again will they be able to step foot onto land. Artemia will do anything to break the hex and free her crew. She plans to remove the cruel curse by inviting the Four Winds to join their magic with hers and kill the wretched hag. But will Artemia be able to convince four gorgeous men to be magically bound to a feared pirate or will they all end up as bones at the bottom of the endless seas?

Morena Silver's Harnessing the Winds is my first foray into reading a reverse harem story, and I hope it won't be my last.

I love how strong and compassionate Artemia Storm is. Her crew can count on her, and she them. The Four Winds sure have a way to worm into any woman's heart. I must admit I'm rather partial to Grim. Sly, the pixie and Storm's best friend, plays great comedic relief as the reader makes their way through Silver's twists and turns.

Filled with mythology, strong characters you can root for, and very steamy romance, Harnessing the Winds by Morena Silver is a must-read in not only the reverse harem subgenre but also for fantasy romance lovers.

Harnessing the Winds is available through Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.


Science Thoughts: theory vs hypothesis #scifi #authorsofscifi

Before I start, have you had a chance to check out our anthology yet? Elements of Untethered Realms is an awesome introduction into all things wondrous and strange! Just sayin' :)

Okay, so to get this going, I am going to give a little caveat: I'm a professor by day and teach a whole lot, coupled with my laboratory research. I find myself in the science realm pretty much constantly. So, when I come across scientific facts that are wrong in novels, I totally know that most people don't have the background I do and can let some things slide.

But there are a few things that bug me a whole lot. They're too basic and actually kind of important distinctions :)

The key there is basic--if you're going to write about science in any way, mostly that means you've at least got the basics down, and I love that! But a few times I stumble across things that leave me going "ummmmm...." One of these was just this past week in a novel by a NYT bestselling author whose work I *adore*! And yet, there on the page, with two characters conversing who she had set up as being very good at science, there was this major issue that made me roll my eyes a little.

Theory was used instead of hypothesis.

See, theory has two meanings. I know it's easy to get confused. But, when it comes to being used in a novel, it's good to get it right because it's something that needs to be well understood by the general public. I'll get into that later. Anyhow, the two definitions of theory are perhaps best understood this way:

"In theory, Mr. Peacock killed the butler." <-- in other words, it is not established or proven. This is the sense that is often used in layman's terms in general conversation.

It is not to be confused with:

"The theory of gravity." <-- This is the scientific meaning. In which case, there is a huge body of evidence that supports gravity (including why you are able to stay pegged to the ground and not lift off into space ;). It is something that is very well established, but because the nature of science IS questioning, we don't say that is is Law. That's how science works.

So, having two characters chatting about how a scientific idea is "just a theory" is ostensibly like saying that they've already proven the idea, had years and years of testing by many individuals, and generally it's considered to be the way the universe works. What should have been used is the word "hypothesis." This is an idea that is yet to be demonstrated through data collection and testing. You hypothesize that something may be correct, but you need to test it first. And even then, it'll be many, many tests and trials before it can even dream of becoming a theory.

Why is this such a soapbox for me? Well, because so many people clamor that something is "just a theory" when referring to a scientific idea. That's like saying that gravity isn't real. That the earth isn't round. That we don't orbit the sun. These are "just" theories. They are points upon which a ton of evidence rests. So the two definitions of "theory"--both for general layman's usage and in science--get confused. But in a novel it's a good idea to get the right. (Unless you're making a point with a character using the wrong one or something--obviously there's creative license here ;). And that's why I sighed and rolled my eyes while reading that (otherwise awesome) novel the other day.

What do you think? Have you seen this be misused? :)


Release Day for Elements of Untethered Realms

Enter our mysterious realms where the stories are as varied and rich as the types of soil on this and other planets. Enchanted forests are knotted with roots and vines. Dreaded paths take us through strange, unexplored places.

Investigate new worlds and houses frequented by ghosts. Come across witches and wizards and an assassin tasked to kill Death.

Meet hot robots, hungry winds, and the goddess of chaos. Explore alien lands, purgatorial realms, and a shocking place where people bury the living with their dead.

Encounter paranormal detectives, imprisoned dragons, dark demons, cursed jewels, and handsome prophets. Search shifting worlds trapped in mirrors and a disturbing future where a president aims to rid the world of Otherkind.

Experience a haunted journey on a riverboat, water sprites borne of pennies, preternatural creatures, ancient serpents, and the Lady of the Lake who lurks in dark waters.

From USA Today bestselling and popular science fiction and fantasy authors comes Elements of Untethered Realms , a supernatural compilation of the anthologies Twisted Earths Mayhem in the Air Ghosts of Fire , and Spirits in the Water . These forty thrilling tales feature authors Angela Brown, Jeff Chapman, Cathrina Constantine, Julie Flanders, River Fairchild, Gwen Gardner, Misha/M. Gerrick, Meradeth Houston, Graeme Ing, Simon Kewin, M. Pax, Christine Rains, Cherie Reich, and Catherine Stine.

Buy it here:
Amazon * B&N * Kobo * Google Play * iTunes

Add it to read on Goodreads.