Summer Adventures with the UR

"In the summer, the days were long, stretching into each other. Out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible." - Sarah Dessen, Along For The Ride

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Christine Rains

This summer I discovered something new and magical. It's called Camp Brosius, and it's a family camp. What's that, you ask? It's summer camp for families, and it's like a cruise on land. There are activities for kids, for adults, and for the whole family. My son stated it was the best vacation of his life, and I have to agree. I relaxed for the first time in like ten years. Really, truly relaxed. That's magic.

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River Fairchild

Summers aren't really my favorite time of year to do anything, but I was thinking back to the carefree days of my childhood. The endless opportunities to do nothing at all. Lie in a field of flowers for no reason. Idle the time away. Thinking about wanting to grow up... and not understanding the value of having no responsibilities for the one and only time in your life! LOL

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Cathrina Constantine

Every year we try to get together for a family vacation. This year we ended up in Chautauqua Lake in a small cottage. It sure was cozy. It was especially special because our three grandchildren met for the first time. Sammy, our 3 year old snagged his very first fish! Fishing, boating, kayaking, and nightly fires with s'mores, good conversation, laughter, and reminiscing made it a perfect vacation.

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M. Pax

Zip lining! With the new job, Husband Unit and I rarely get a day off together. When we do, we take advantage. One of the most enthralling things we've ever done was the zip line tour near Crater Lake. Heights scare the crap out of me, but I also like adventure. I'd never jump out of a plane or bungee jump, but zip lining scared me a little bit less. It was fantastic! Flying through the trees, being out in the glory of nature, laughing under the sun. Now I want to zip line everywhere there is a zip line.

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Meradeth Houston

This summer I spent a good deal of time in my lab working, but that was to gear up for a super awesome adventure :) I traveled to Zurich, Switzerland, where I met up with one of my good friends and we headed to the Dolomites (southern Alps in Italy). The striking peaks were amazing and we have six days of hiking through their splendor. From there, I got to travel around in northern Italy, visit Otzi the ice mummy (so cool!), and several other places. This is me in Verona (the city from Shakespeare's famous Romeo and Juliet), and I also had some fun in Genoa and along the coast there. I have a bunch of photos on my Instagram page, if anyone wants to see. It was a trip of a lifetime, and since I really needed a break from work, I am very grateful I was able to go!


Putting Real People in your Historical Fantasy

Recently, I attended the Writers’ Digest Book Conference in NYC, and one of the panels that resonated with me was The Thin Line Between Historical Fact & Fiction moderated by authors Crystal King and Anjali Mitter Duva. They posed some interesting questions. Here are a few:

When is it beneficial to use real people in fiction? Are there rules? Can you make a good person into a dubious character—a villain even? How much can you bend the “real” history? Is there any instance it would be unwise to use a real person, or a time you might go too far?

In my Witch of the Cards, set in 1932 I injected multiple real life characters: Salvador Dali, Elsa Schiaparelli, Irene Ware and Bela Lugosi to name a few. They were mainly in the scenes aboard the Morro Castle ocean liner that sailed from Manhattan to Cuba. I wanted to show that even during Prohibition, the glitterati of high society found a way to drink. The laws that held on solid ground, were not punishable when on the high seas, or in Cuba. I also put these creative souls in to lighten the dark days that my poor character Peter Dune endured. He got to party with these folks and lounge on a Cuban beach. Who wouldn’t want to party with the madcap Dali?
Dickens at work
I am now crafting a fantasy set in 1854 Philadelphia and so far I have decided on two characters from real life. One is Charles Dickens and the other is Thomas Mutter. In addition to writing great novels, Dickens wrote an infamous treatise on the cruelty of solitary confinement in prisons. This, after he toured the supposedly humane Eastern State Penitentiary, where my girl, Evalina is serving a sentence. You see, during that time, people believed that forced isolation was a humane way to treat prisoners. But soon, people discovered that it made prisoners go mad. Dicken’s scathing article helped illuminate this. Mutter is most well-known for his strange collection of medical anomalies. Yet, more importantly, he invented cutting edge (pardon the pun!) plastic surgery techniques still used today, like the Mutter flap. Can you tell that my novel will have shady medicine in it?! Uh, huh.

So, the upshot is that one should think deeply about who and WHY they want to write real folks into their historical fantasies. Some benefits are:
*Grounding the story historically and vividly.
*Opening out a period of time in order to look at it from a fresh vantage point.
*Giving a side character his or her due. (Similar to Fan Fic)
*Imagining an alternative history.
*Giving an entire period of history its due using people from the time.
*Imagining two peers who never atually met. Having them meet and carry out a friendship, a love relationship, a rivalry, a freaking crime!

It’s fun to think of angles, right? Can you think of more reasons to utilize real historical characters? Have you ever wanted to put a real person from history into your stories? If so, who might be the most fun? The most unnerving?


#perseverance #writer #writing

I belong to a fantastic group of writer's called the Insecure Support Writer's Group. If you haven't joined yet, you should. 

The group was asked in July: 
What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing? And this was my answer:

is a valuable lesson. 

Once you begin your story, you are a writer. It doesn't matter what genre or if you write flash fiction, short stories, articles, or novels. If you wish to pursue traditional publishing, small independent presses, or self-publishing, it can be quite daunting. 

The lonely and long hours you put into your work and self-sacrificing your time can be a joy and/or a drudgery. You need to persevere.

It's your first draft, and you type those phenomenal two words: *THE ENDBut really it's the beginning. A second draft, a third draft, editing, revising, beta readers and so on...persistence

Then if you seek an agent or submit to publishing houses it's another path filled with road blocks of disappointments and rejections. 

But my mantra is: "It only takes one YES" and for that one yes you need: **PERSEVERANCE**

You can join this wonderful group here:


Why We Love Series

I read a lot. And I read fast. Thankfully I've built up my TBR list to such a huge scale that I'll never run out of books.

What I love the most is book series. Most readers feel the same way. As a writer, I can't help but wonder why people love series so much. Stand alone books can be fantastic reads, but series of books attract me much more.

First, and most obvious, is that we can't get enough of what we love. We want more. Series of books fill that need. Finding characters I love make me want to follow them through their whole lives. Exploring wonderful new worlds can have me reading for hours, and I get excited when new parts of the world are revealed as the series goes on.

I get deep into plots that slowly unfurl over time. With a story just in one book, it all has to be tied up at the end, but in a series, there is a longer buildup for the over-arching plot. I want all the details, to wonder what might happen next, and to be taken on all sorts of twists and turns.

Another reason we love series is familiarity. We know the characters and the world. There's comfort in that, and when the author manages to surprise us with something new in our favorite series, it reinforces the adoration.

Choosing from the countless shelves of other books can be overwhelming. Something in the same series makes our next read an easy choice. Less stress is good for us all.

What are your favorite things about reading a series?

I'm celebrating my urban fantasy series, Totem, with the release of the 8th and penultimate book today!

Some say the moon is for lovers, but wise folks know to fear it.

Kinley Dorn must be strong for her family in these dark times. Sometimes she feels she’s all that’s holding them together. But when the frightening Moon Man attacks and bestows a burdensome gift upon her, Kinley might have to do more than simply help her family. She will have to battle a god, but which one? If it’s the sly man hunting her in the astral plane, Kinley might not make it out alive.


Book Reviews: 3 awesome books from the Untethered Realms authors #amreading

We have such an amazing group of authors in Untethered Realms. I eat up all of my fellow members' books, and I wanted to share with you three of my most recent reads.

Saving the Phoenix Guard has changed him forever.

My review: In a great battle against the Great Beyonders, Liam died on the field. Yet the Phoenix Prophetess Yssa somehow brought him back to life. He never wanted to be apart from her, but now he struggles with seeing and hearing things that aren't there. Dark threats still shadow the kingdom, and Liam will do everything in his power to protect Yssa. This also includes finding out what is happening to him. If only he can find the information he needs in time.

This well-written fantasy novella takes place just after Reborn, the first book of The Fate Challenges. It brings us from Yssa's point of view into Liam's, her Phoenix Guard. I loved seeing Yssa from a different point of view. We are all harder on ourselves after all. Liam strives to protect her and make her happy, and sometimes those two goals are opposed to one another.

The aftermath of a huge battle isn't pretty. We see the celebration and the grief. Liam is a soldier and has lost many comrades, and this makes his struggle with his own situation even more immense. Love gives him strength, though. It was fascinating to follow along with him as he researched the only other man to be brought back from the dead and wonder what exactly happened then, and what might happen to him. I can't wait for the next book to see where it will take Yssa and Liam!

The first shot of a new war echoes through the galaxy.

My review: The Backworlds and Foreworlds have banned together with the hope of defeating a terrifying enemy, the Quassers. Craze gave up his friends and livelihood to become the envoy for the Backworlds. All he'd rather be doing is brewing some malt and tending his bar, but there is much more than his pride at stake here. The alliance is shaky, and Craze can't afford to let it fall apart. They have one more chance at survival, and it's all or nothing.

I loved delving back into the rich universe of this space opera series. The settings, characters, and storylines are all marvelously varied, but twine together so very well. I'm often reminded of Firefly with Craze and his friends out to save the universe armed with their good hearts and sometimes good luck. But things don't go their way all the time.

The cast in this series is large, but none of them suffer from lack of depth. Each of them have their own tales, but a powerful love of friends holds them together. The twists in the plot had me shouting "Oh my God!" out loud, and several times, it tugged hard at my heart. Plus there were some clever bits in there like the crusties and the tendrils. This is an immensely heavy book, and I didn't want it to end. I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment in the Backworlds.

The Weird West just gets weirder.

My review: Orville "foretells" people's futures for coin, but Jimmy hopes to make a more honest living in the Old West. The two hucksters are captured by a dark wizard named Marzby who lures them in with a plea for help with a knocker. Orville is held prisoner as Jimmy is sent out to find an enchanted knife and bring it back to Marzby within three days. Help isn't coming, and Jimmy doesn't know what's more pesky: shapeshifting varmints or a tenacious girl who refuses to be sent home to her ma. The knife is an evil thing and no one should have their hands on it, but how else is Jimmy going to rescue Orville?

This weird Old West tale was a marvelous adventure. It me laughing with Jimmy's similes and Isobel's antics, and it had me on the edge of my seat with the thrilling action and thick tension. There were a few twists and turns I didn't see coming. It was just the sort of gritty, supernaturally fun plot I enjoy.

Jimmy is immediately likable. He's loyal, goodhearted, and not afraid of hard work. He can be a wily young man too. Orville is exactly what I imagine a huckster to be like. Slick of tongue, able to talk himself out of most situations. I particularly enjoyed the interaction with Jimmy and the girl, Isobel. She's got the makings of a great hero and huckster herself! Marzby was a despicable villain. The kind I love to hate. I always wondered exactly how much he knew and how he would turn the events into his favor.


Cat Sidhe, Coming in Late October

Cat Sidhe: Into the Witch Lands I

Cat Sidhe is the first in a trilogy of novellas. Merliss the cat, the protagonist from "The Water Wight," is back for more supernatural encounters.

Something nasty has come through one of the ley gates. It walks upright. It talks. And it looks like an oversized cat, but as Merliss can attest, it doesn't smell like a cat. The cat sidhe is on the hunt for slaves, someone with opposable thumbs. Merliss travels to unknown territories to rescue Saerwynn and encounters more trouble making her way home. The situation is far more dire than Merliss and her friends could have imagined.


A gust whistled through the crevices between the rocks. There was a ley here, but not one Merliss travelled. It linked to a network far to the northeast, in a cold, rugged land of steep hills and valley streams.

A pulsing blue pulled Merliss out of the hunt, pushing all thoughts of the vole aside. The runes around the ley's arch glowed with the sharpness of the day of their carving and then faded to the faint scratches of today. Her whiskers twitched. The air crackled with the energy of a lightning strike. The ley was active. Someone was coming.   

From time to time an unwitting animal leapt through a ley in just the right way to activate it. Merliss considered the strange smelling vole. Leys were only active when the sun warmed them. Fog or heavy cloud cover made them dodgy. But such accidental ley leaps were rare. Ley arches hummed with enough energy to ward off animals and even people. The folk living on the moor called them ghost stones. Merliss didn't have enough paws to count the times she had seen someone alter their path to avoid passing near a ley.

Merliss's eyes grew wide and as bright yellow as gorse flowers. The runes pulsed with more energy, no longer fading. To a magical creature's heightened senses, the ley buzzed with the roar of a thousand swarming bee hives. Merliss ran to Saerwynn's side. Blissfully unaware of the ley's activity, the girl tucked the wrapped flower in her satchel, exercising the same care she would give an egg.

"We've done alright for ourselves, we have. A full day's work and hardly half the day gone amiss. Master Fendrel will be pleased, eh?"

Merliss turned her back on Saerwynn to face the ley. Her tail twitched, audibly thumping the ground. The hairs along her back rose as stiff as yew needles. A growl vibrated in her throat. The hill trembled. The vibration crept through the pads of her paws. A ley's disruption was proportional to the distance traveled. This one spanned hundreds upon hundreds of miles.

"What's gotten into you, cat? Just a pile of weathered old stones." Saerwynn's smile twisted. "You don't smell an adder, do you?" She gazed at the base of the rocks, searching for the long, thick body of a viper.

Blue light flashed amidst the stones, wrapping round the edges like a blooming pimpernel of flame.

Saerwynn shrieked. "Ghost stones."

The flash was blinding. Merliss squinted and turned away, saving herself from an eyeful of blind spots by the breadth of a whisker. When she turned back, a yowling, black ball of fur and legs bounced out of the ley. It unwound as it rolled across a waste of rock chips, scattering them like splashed water with each bounce. When it came to rest at the edge of the summit, it possessed all the appearance of a monstrous black cat with a head as big around as a man's, yellow eyes rivaling walnuts, and forelegs stretching three feet.

Merliss hissed through bared teeth, spittle bubbling round the edges of her mouth. Her back arched. Instinct insisted on a show of ferocious force. Instinct also counseled running, but for now Merliss planted her paws and leaned into another hiss. She chanced a look at Saerwynn.

The girl stood silent, her mouth gaping, as dumb as a dead songbird. A rock would have danced a livelier jig. Was the girl already bewitched?

Merliss sniffed between hisses. The cat creature didn't smell like cat, more like sour magic and burnt chicken bones.

The black creature peered at them down the length of its belly. Shimmering black fur, slick as a seal skin wet with oil, covered the creature's body except for a patch of white on its chest, like the chink in a dragon's armor. Inch long claws sprang from its flexing forepaws. Yellow eyes twitched between Merliss and Saerwynn.

The creature clambered onto its hind paws, bringing its head a mere hand below Saerwynn's full height. The tip of its ragged tail brushed the ground. The white patch on its chest rose and contracted with the beat of the creature's heart.

"What, what is it?" sputtered Saerwynn.

Merliss knew exactly what this was. A cat sidhe. A dark witch shifted into a cat-like form. Had the witch done it for the ninth time and stuck herself? What a time to lack speech.

The cat sidhe stretched its arms and rolled it head. Its neck popped and cracked.

Merliss loosed a long, mournful cry. The sunny afternoon darkened. Merliss kept her gaze locked on the cat sidhe's chest, careful to avoid staring into its eyes. To lock gazes with a cat sidhe would grant the monster power over one's soul. Merliss crouched and backed closer to Saerwynn. When a hind paw brushed the girl's staff, the cat thumped it with her tail.

"Prrettyee," said the sidhe. It's tongue wrapped clumsily around the word gurgling up from it's throat. The creature sniffed. It's gaze directed at the satchel. "Willow. Gatherring ingrredients, arre ye?"

The sidhe's gaze returned to Saerwynn. It stepped forward. With its forepaws reaching toward Saerwynn, the sidhe bobbed on hind legs in a herky-jerky motion. If not for its sharp-toothed grin, the exaggerated tip-toe gait would have been comical. The sidhe tilted its head from side to side. Drawing Saerwynn's attention to the eyes, thought Merliss.

"Stop!" Saerwynn took a step backward and stretched her arm to tap the rock pile. "Who are you?"

"Yerr frriend." The sidhe bobbed forward. "I can teach ye, a lassie like ye. Fates've brrung us togetherr."

The eyes, thought Merliss. Don't look in its eyes. Merliss could not talk to Saerwynn, but she could talk to a creature of magic. "Back off!"

The sidhe jerked its attention to Merliss and stared hard at the crouching cat.

Merliss felt the power behind the eyes like a heavy hand squashing her into the dirt. She whacked the staff with her tail, ignoring the pain shuddering up her spine.

"What arre ye?" said the sidhe, all the syrupy sweetness drained from its voice.

"You don't belong here. Go back!" Merliss ended her command with a hiss.

"Hmm," said the sidhe. "Interrresting. What does ye call yerrself?"

"I'm--" Saerwynn apparently thought better of giving away her name. She snatched up the staff to Merliss's relief and thrust the silver point at the black creature.

The sidhe yowled as it stumbled backward, flailing its forelegs. Fleet as a cat, the creature recovered its balance in an instant and stood where it had begun.

"I've got a teacher. And he's no flea-bitten fur bag, so back with you. Back to the pit where you crawled from." Saerwynn jabbed her staff at the creature, rocking it back a half-step, her confidence rising like a flood in a gulley.

"Go on," shouted Saerwynn. "Off with you."

Merliss marveled at the girl's confidence. Was this the Saerwynn who complained of walking up a hill? Perchance she was finally coming into her power, living up to her potential. The thirteenth daughter of a seventh son could have a wild power if caught and groomed. A powerful healer could emerge from an ugly cocoon. Maybe Fendrel had chosen well after all.

The sidhe hissed and flexed the formidable claws in its forepaws.

"Not so hasty, little girrl. Put down yer wee twig. We have much to talk about."

"I've got nary a word to toss at you." Saerwynn glared at the sidhe. "Off with you, I say, or I'll call my master. And he'll put an end to you."

"Yerr masterr. Yerr masterr. What has he taught ye but to wave a stick and sniff out smelly roots?"

"He..." The anger faded from Saerwynn's voice. "He..."

"Hmmm? A cat's got yerr tongue?" Its eyes pulsed between yellow and amber, one color fading into the other.

Not the eyes, thought Merliss. Beware the eyes. This talking had gone on too long. She swiped the air with her claws and yowled, hoping to draw the attention of friend and foe.

The sidhe hissed and cut the wind with its claws.

Saerwynn shook her head like someone waking. She cocked her staff overhead in one hand and sent it flying like a spear.


"No!" cried Merliss. To cast one weapon while reaching for another was strategic. To throw your only weapon was foolish.