Merry Christmas - Goofy, gnarly, and gelastic gifts!

We've all gotten at least one ridiculous gift in our lives. You know, the one from the loony aunt who sews dresses for her cats or the immature thirty-year-old brother who thinks he's hilarious. And he's the only one who thinks that. It's the present that made you furrow your brows, shake your head, and laugh out loud. Or maybe, yeah, you're the one who bestowed such a bizarre bounty upon someone. We're going to share with you our goofy gifts. Please tell us about yours!

M. Pax

When I was 14, I got a plastic hanger. I did my best to smile and be enthusiastic about the gift, but it was hard. My sister and cousin received the same in different colors. We may have been surprised by our odd gifts and laughed about them a lot, but, ya know, we've never forgotten them or the aunt who gave them to us. It did help me organize my scarf thingies-can't remember what they were called, they ended in a knot-purses, and belts. So, thanks Aunt Nancy for a yuletide memory that never fades. This is sort of what it looked like, but in red.


Christine Rains

I had one Grandma (my father's mom) that gave my brother and I bath towels every year for Christmas, and for three years in a row, my mother-in-law gave me scrub pads to wash the dishes. I'm going to tell you a story with a happy ending, though. Every year growing up, my great Auntie Jo would give my brother, cousins, and I knitted Christmas sweaters she made herself. Nowadays, people love to get ugly sweaters, but when you're a kid, they are the worst sort of gift. They itched like crazy and were the worst colors. I remember one year getting a sweater with a misshapen reindeer in maroon. When I was fourteen or fifteen, we stopped receiving gifts from Auntie Jo, and I didn't receive another until my son was born. My son was the first grandchild on my mom's side (my Nana's first who is Auntie Jo's sister). Auntie Jo doesn't have any grandchildren of her own. She handmade a beautiful baby blanket. It's stunning. It made my mom cry. All those years of practicing made Auntie Jo a master. I thank her for all those years of ugly sweaters. I wish I appreciated them more back then, but her baby gift was most treasured and her generosity and talent forever remembered.

Cherie Reich

I was five at the time, and each student in our kindergarten class brought a wrapped gift to exchange. We all had numbers, and I watched other kids open up toys, books, coloring books, and the like. We each had to open our gift in front of each other and say what we got. My anticipation and excitement grew until it was my turn to open my gift. And what did I find? Socks. Adult-sized, pink wool knitted socks with a purple button upon them. Where was the toy? The book? The crayons? I threw the socks onto the desk and mumbled what I received. Socks can be a fine gift, don't get me wrong, but most five-year-olds would prefer anything else. And I, unfortunately, don't have a picture of said socks. I believe they might have slipped into a Goodwill donation bag over the years as they were itchy and uncomfortable.


Julie Flanders

Ever since we decided on this topic for a group post I have been racking my brain trying to think of a suitable entry. Try as I might, I simply can't remember a gift I've ever received that qualifies. So I did some googling for weird gifts and immediately found a favorite that I thought I would share instead. An ugly Christmas sweater made just for guinea pigs. Who could resist it? I want to give a fair warning to everyone I know. If you ever get a guinea pig you are going to find this sweater under your tree. 

Thank you, Petsmart! 

River Fairchild

One year I received the book, The Courtship of Miles Standish. That wouldn't be too catastrophic if I had been an adult, although it would probably sit on my shelf unread for all time. The real issue? I was only nine years old.


Gwen Gardner

I don't remember receiving any strange gifts when I was a child. We always received clothes and then one toy. But as an adult, my new husband gave me something really strange. We used to love to go out dancing, and we were pretty good, too. At least, I thought we were. I thought I was holding up my end as a dancing partner...until he gave me two left shoes for Christmas. 



The science & mystique of boxed sets

Here at UR we've done a boxed set of novels called Fantasy Rising, and two story anthologies, Twisted Earths and Mayhem in the Air. See them all here! They've been great to work on for various reasons. One is the socializing factor, getting to know each other better through the editing and decision-making processes of cover design, title choice and the like. But, they've also been beneficial to spreading word of our group, our individual authorship and bodies of work. And of course, they make money that helps us publish other sets and buy promo.

This year, I've delved into the world of boxed sets and story anthologies outside of UR as well. My first venture was in placing one of my indie novels in a huge boxed set called Secret Worlds with twenty other authors of fantasy and paranormal fiction. I learned a lot about marketing with this set. We assigned one author a day to be responsible for posting promo material on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, TSU and Instagram. We had a contingent of people who specialized in creating visual teasers, and another who took care of accounting and payouts. Still another took money and placed ads in popular book sites.

The hard work paid off. We landed on the Amazon Bestseller list for three solid weeks in three categories (myth, new adult & fairytale). This proved to be such a good system we've kept the boxed set up three months after we planned to delete it.

As a final marketing plan to boost the set through the holidays to New Years, we created a perma-free story anthology called Beyond Secret Worlds that relates directly to our novels in Secret Worlds, so people can follow us into our other books. see it on iTunes, Amazon, Kobo.

And, hey, it's FREE, folks! It includes my story, Blue House Magic, which follows Ruby and Blane from book two of the Fireseed series, to their new home in Vegas-by-the-Sea. So, it's a lead-in to book three (as of yet unwritten).

I've found readers love boxed sets because it allows them to sample a variety of work for a great price. If one story or novel doesn't suit them, they can simply read on to another one. Having a bunch of authors working on the same project is a huge relief. It's community-building and so much less stressful than always going it alone. But it does require good organization, and sometimes, even a strict leader, barking away at the crew.

Have you participated in a boxed set or story anthology? Did you enjoy it? If so why? Pros and cons? 


Illuminarium, an Amoran Holiday #fantasy

Amora is the kingdom I created for The Fate Challenges series. Although the series won't actually feature the Amoran holiday Illuminarium, except for a bonus section in the boxed set, I thought I'd talk about the holiday today since it comes up this month--December to us, Hupogaim to Amorans.

The festival begins at sunset on the longest night of the year, our Winter Solstice. Illuminarium honors Hupogaia, the Goddess of the Underworld. At sunset, Amorans either gather at a temple dedicated to Hupogaia or in their homes and light candles or fire pits. They stay up through the night and talk about those who have gone on to the Underworld since the previous Illuminarium. They grieve. They laugh. They remember their lost loved ones.
As dawn approaches, they burn asphodel petals. Asphodel is said to be the food of the dead.

Once the sun has broken the horizon, they extinguish the flames and celebrate life. Even though it's a long dark night without their loved ones, the sun has risen and it's very golden--or maj--to be alive. The Amorans exchange gifts and will often eat, dance, and make merry up to a week afterwards.

As Illuminarium comes in our realm, I think of my uncle who passed away in March. He was a big man who gave the best hugs and made awesome food. He loved Salem football (local high school) and going to yardsales, garage sales, etc. He knew I loved collecting owls, so when he found something at a yardsale, he would buy it for me. My favorite item is an owl teapot.
Even though I miss him, I'm grateful to have known him and am grateful for all my friends and family still with us.
As an Illuminarium gift, I give to you a free copy of Reborn, the first book in The Fate Challenges. Use the coupon code JL35Q at checkout on Smashwords. The coupon code is good until December 31, 2015.


Review for Kinetic by S.K. Anthony #superheros #paranormal

Let me first begin by saying I love Superheros! I always wanted to be one, and Kinetic is raging with super powers. S.K. Anthony has the ability to make it sound realistic and scientific how these people evolved with unimaginable powers such as healing, hypnotizing, fire-beams charging out of their hands, disappearing, and more. Our main character Annie has strength, great strength. The petite Annie can wrestle anyone and anything and come out on top. The big problem is, their power has a draining effect on their bodies.

The Blurb:
 Being strong is one thing. Being an unlimited source of power is quite another.

Genetically altered by the Organization, Annie Fox takes down criminals CIA-style with her luminary strength. With nothing to mend but her broken heart, she is relentlessly pursued by her boss Derek Lake. Just when Annie is about to give him a chance, her ex-husband unexpectedly comes out of hiding.

A wanted man, Nick Logan is a cold-hearted murderer who is considered enemy number one, and orders are clear: kill on contact. He is more powerful than ever and threatens the lives of those she holds most dear. His plan? Get his hands on Annie and use her Kinetic energy to destroy them all. When Annie finds herself with an opportunity to end him, she pauses, horrified by the scars covering the face she once loved. A split second that will cost her everything

  Cathrina's Review:

Now that you all read the blurb, I can say Kinetic is a fast paced read and held my interest. I especially liked the despicable Nick Logan, enemy number one. He was one pissed-off dude that you have to love. He was sexy and lethal all in one. I admit, I have a thing for 17 year-old, Kevin, who can disappear and reappear anywhere, cool. I'm drawn to witty sarcasm and Kinetic has plenty of that. 

S.K. Anthony spins an intriguing tale. I did figure out who the bad guy was, but that's okay. It was interesting and somewhat typical as to why he was doing what he was doing. Remember I don't like leaving spoilers. If you're interested, I highly suggest reading Kinetic. 

What Super Power Would You Pick?


Reality vs Fiction. Settler, Home of The Rifters! The Reader, Rifters Book 3 is HERE! #SciFi #Fantasy

In the Rifters series, I based the little, wilderness town of Settler on an actual town in Oregon. Settler is roughly based on Fossil, Oregon.

Fossil has a population of about 500. Settler is 2x that at 1000. So that I fictionalized.

Fossil is located in a county which houses the Painted Hills and the Ochoco Mountains.

I wanted it closer to where I live, so moved this lovely town to the Newberry Caldera. Here we overlook the two lakes and the obsidian flow. Between the two lakes is the pumice cone. All of this is inside a big volcano. I stuck the town in the middle of all this.

In Fossil, the library is attached to the fire house and city hall. In Settler, the fire house is on the other side of the library and city hall is elsewhere.

Fossil is very quiet. You can stand on a street corner and not see another soul or another car for hours. The same is true in Settler.

Here's the Paleo Institute I base the one in my books on, complete with dinosaur fossil.

This park is also included in my books, but I changed the mural and in the books this is behind the library:

Here is the county courthouse that inspired the Caslow County office building in Settler. In Settler, it's closer to the library. In Fossil, it's next to the Paleo Institute.

The people in Fossil are awesome. So if you ever go out that way, pop in and visit them. I'll for sure go back. Wheeler County is one of my favorite places in Oregon.

With views like this, I'm always eager to return:

The Reader, Rifters Book 3 is here!


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With the rift closed for the season and no more monsters to fight, Daelin Long gets bored as librarian in the podunk town of Settler, Oregon. A job interview and her brother's arrival present a tempting opportunity to escape, until her brother and her best friend, a ghost, disappear.

While Daelin searches for them, more mysteries pile up: dead people coming back to life, portraits of the town founders replaced with strange white trees, and people on the other side of the rift returning. It’s impossible. The portal that allows monsters from other universes to come to Earth is sealed until next summer.

The Rifters, a secret group protecting our world, believe the troubles are nothing more than the tantrums of an offended ghost. Daelin disagrees. If she’s right, the evil hell-bent on destroying Earth has new technology making the rift more deadly. Before the monster summons the next apocalypse, Daelin must find it and destroy it.

Book 3 in the Rifter series.

Need to get caught up? You can read books 1 and 2 in the series for free by becoming an M. Pax Reader.