Happy Holidays From Untethered Realms


(Image from Pixabay)

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

We here at Untethered Realms hope to share with you something a little bit more this holiday season. These books are our favorites, near and dear to our hearts. Perhaps you already love them too, or you may find the gift of a new tale to sweep you away.

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M. Pax: My all-time favorites: Man O' War by Walter Farley, A Wrinkle in Time, Winnie the Pooh, Anne of Green Gables, A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dune, The Valor series by Tanya Huff, anything by Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy, and Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. This year, some of my favorite reads were Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman, Horizon Alpha by D. W. Vogel, Hidden by Linda Berry, The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott, Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn, and World Without End by Ken Follett.

Meradeth Houston: My all-time favorite read is A Wrinkle in Time, but this time of year I remember The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot with quite a lot of fondness. My mom used to read this to my sister and I around the holidays, and as big animal people (we always had some creature or other living/recuperating in the kitchen) this story always hit home.

Christine Rains: I'm with many people when I say I can lose myself in the Harry Potter series again and again and again. But here are a few you might not have heard about. The Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman is such beautiful and dark alien fantasy. For horror fans, The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman is amazing.

Catherine Stine: Wow, I have so many favorite reads... okay, here are a handful: Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (for kids); Paula Brackston's witch novels like Winter Witch; and almost any novel by Don Delillo - for instance Libra or Point Omega.

Cherie Reich: It's hard to narrow down my favorite reads, but let's see if I can. For people who enjoy the classics, I loved reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. For fantasy, my all-time favorite is the Harry Potter series, but I also really enjoyed Rachel Morgan's Creepy Hollow series. For science fiction and thrillers, I love anything by Michael Crichton. For writers, I recommend Story Genius and Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. For mystery and historical, I thoroughly enjoyed John Maddox Roberts' SPQR series.

Gwen Gardner: My all-time favorite Christmas read, hands down, is, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. He knew what he was about when he wrote it. The social aspects of the novel are still valid today. But my favorite line is when Mr. Cratchit tells Mrs. Cratchit what Tiny Tim said in Church: He hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.

Some of my other favorite reads this year were In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear, The Seagull by Ann Cleeves, and Rather Be The Devil, by Ian Rankin. 

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From our family to yours, we wish you a happy holiday season and a fantastic 2018.

Don't forget we're seeking author guests for the new year. If you're interested, please leave a comment below.


Meet the Neighbor... Ross 128 b. Another world close to our own #astronomy

By ESO/M. Kornmesser (https://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1736a/) [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Eleven light years away, orbiting a small, faint red dwarf, is the Earth-like planet Ross 128 b. The star, Ross 128, is one of the quietest stars in the solar neighborhood and is located in the Virgo constellation. Most red dwarfs are prone to flaring, which can blast nearby planets with lots of radiation, stripping away their atmospheres and making them uninhabitable. But Ross 128 b doesn’t flare very often, which makes any planets in its habitable zone candidates for hosting life.

The planet was detected by the HARPS instrument at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. It is the second-closest known Earth-size exoplanet and is calculated to have a minimum mass of 1.35 times the Earth. Ross 128 b orbits 20 times closer to its star than Earth orbits the Sun, but intercepts only 1.38 times more solar radiation than Earth, increasing the chance of retaining an atmosphere.

It's year (rotation period) lasts about 9.9 days and is most likely tidally locked, meaning one side of the planet has eternal daylight and the other eternal darkness.

As of 2017, Ross 128 b is the best candidate for a potentially habitable exoplanet, if it has an atmosphere and if it has the right chemical balance for life to thrive.

Would its inhabitants be like us? Or wildly different? What do you imagine they're like?


NCTE, a very special book event plus more

I have attended lots of book fests, retreats and conferences in the last two years to see which ones make most sense for me. I promised to report on some for you. Last month I attended NCTE - National Conference of Teachers of English. Hundreds of teachers and librarians attend this conference to figure out which books to use for their classrooms in the year to come. The location shifts from city to city. Last year it was in Atlanta, Georgia. This year it was in Saint Louis, Missouri. Next year it will be in Houston, Texas.

This conference is excellent for any author who wants to get their books read and taught in schools of any level--elementary, middle or high school. I shared a booth with fellow author, Gail Strickland, who writes fantasy using mythology, while I am focused on spreading word of my Fireseed series, which teaches about climate change, future farming and transgenic crops.
Gail and Catherine sharing a booth at NCTE

For me, there is nothing better than getting a chance to speak directly to teachers, who are passionate about reading and educating students.

I've found that even if you never plan to go to conferences, it is a good move to create a question list for book clubs or classrooms that can be accessed in the back of your book or directly downloaded from your website.

Next year I will pare down the amount of book cons I attend. They do cost money and take up time. One must weigh the costs and benefits. Here's a list of ones I've been to and what I found were the best aspects:
Roanoke Author Invasion: Great for selling books!
Squaw Valley Writers' Retreat: Good for receiving in-depth writing critiques, community, finding editors and agents. One must send a writing sample for entry.
Writers' Digest Con: Great for pitching to agents and editors.
Chapter Con UK: Wonderful for meeting UK authors and book lovers. The next one in 2019 will focus on writing sessions and writers' issues.
Penned Con (St. Louis): Excellent one for selling books.
RT Booklovers Con: HUGE event! Great for bookselling, and for high level panels. Can pitch one-on-one to editors and agents. Location switches from year to year.
Mendocino Writers' Con: Lovely little conference, which is good for small breakout groups on various writing topics. Can pitch to a small group of agents. Affordable.
RWA National Conference: A great con for anyone writing any type of romance. Location switches.
BEA - Book Expo: HUGE event. Many great breakout groups! Can buy half-priced books. Can get in at a discount if you belong to a group such as SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America). You can also sign your books with an org. such as this, but you must give the books away. I found my Evernight Teen editor this way.
Brooklyn Book Fest: A surprisingly homey event, with lots of live readings and lectures. A family event, so not good for romance but great for YA. Share a booth. It's expensive otherwise.

I will attend Once Upon a Book con in Michigan next summer, which I've heard great things about. But I cannot vouch for it yet. There are MANY events all over the USA. Google book fests in your area to see what's around.

Have you gone to any retreats or book fests you've enjoyed or found helpful for your author life?